Meet Tiga, whose natural hair journey has spanned France, Guadeloupe and New Orleans!
T: I am from Paris France, I work over there. My parents are from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, which is a state of France kinda like Hawaii is a state of the US. So I am a native from France.
What is interesting about Paris?
T: Well, Paris is known for being the city of love, the capital of fashion, culture, arts etc. You have so many things you can do in Paris from shopping to visiting museums, the Eiffel tower and the castles. You also have the lovely streets. The food is yummy I particularly like the bakeries. I love it. It is always busy. You also have the south of France with cities like Nice, Cannes, St Tropez and their nice beaches.
What is the natural hair scene like in France?
T: The natural scene is huge in Paris, especially among people coming from the Caribbean. Seeing curly girls in the streets isn’t uncommon. It is well accepted, people don’t look at you like it is weird but instead will compliment you. But it’s weird that you don’t have many salons geared towards natural hair. If you go to a salon you can only get it braided or flat ironed.
Why did you go natural?
T: I went natural many times, lol. When I was a kid my mom would press my hair with a hot comb, and later I got a relaxer. She wouldn’t relax my hair every 3 months, she would wait and braid my hair. When I was around 12 or something my mom went to a dermatologist who told her about the effect of relaxers. On that day she stopped relaxing my hair and my little sister’s hair and her own hair, so I had braids most of the time. Everybody at my school loved it. My teacher would say, “oh Tiga is so pretty she always has a new haircut”. So I never had issue with my hair. The only thing was that since my mum braided my hair I did not know how to care of my hair by myself. When I was 15 she fell sick and stayed at the hospital for a long time. I had nobody to do my hair so I had relaxer. The same year we moved to Guadeloupe.
When I was living over there, I saw people wearing their hair in all kind of different of ways, but mostly in its natural state. One day I told my mum to cut it off. I was 16 when I big chopped for the first time. My hair grew back and I loved it. I colored it in bright red because it was just the expression of my bubbly, explosive personality.
In 2005, I decided to do an exchange program to improve my spoken English and I chose to go to New Orleans. In August, I left for the University of New Orleans. I had my hair braided in bright red and I loved it. Unfortunately, Katrina struck New Orleans and I had to flee. Needless to say, my hair was my last worry. I had no contact with my family for a couple of days and all I had left was a suitcase with 3 pairs of underwear, 3 t‑shirts and 1 pair of jeans. We (my 2 friends and I) decided to stay in America to continue our exchange program and we went to the University of Lafayette.
I still had my bright red braids on but it was time for me to take them off, and went to put in color again. I wanted a bright red but the hairdresser messed up my hair and it came up bright orange. She told me it would be $60. My hair was braided and I guess she didn’t see that my hair was natural. As soon as she took off the braid to do my color everybody at the salon, customers and hairdressers alike, stared at me. She asked me if I wanted a relaxer and I said no thanks I am fine with just color. I could see she was kinda reluctant but she did my hair anyway and as I said it was a mess. On top of that she said that it would be $80 instead since it was hard to do my hair in its natural state. Then she asked me if I wanted to have it styled and dried for extra money. I left the salon with my hair dripping wet. My friend finished my hair at the dorm.
The next day I was feeling good and walking very confidently toward the cafeteria. As soon as I walked in everybody stopped talking. I mean literally, stopped talking. People were making comments like “Girl slavery is over. Do you know what a comb is? Probably not she is from Europe I heard they don’t have hairdressers over there”. Girls were asking me if my hairdresser went to jail. “Poor girl she was in New Orleans probably forgot her comb over there”. I was mortified.
Here I was in a foreign country with no family, feeling especially alone after Katrina and facing people making hard comments on my hair. Then when I looked around I realized that I was the only girl on the whole campus wearing my hair in its natural state. Every single black girl had their hair relaxed or braided. When talking with some black friends they were like it’s normal, it’s America people don’t like to see natural hair. If you wear your hair natural it means you are making a statement of pride and they don’t like that. It was a stressing environment.
White people were looking at me as if I had a beard, and most of them touched my hair like it was public property. I had a white Canadian friend who played soccer, and would put braids in to manage her hair. She told me her teammates called her the N word because she had braids and it was considered a black hairstyle. She did not understand the big deal, being from Canada. She had friends from everywhere, it was not unusual for her to wear braids, and nobody ever made comment about it. She told me that her coach told her to take them off because she was not an N word. She said no and he suspended her saying that her hairstyle was not appropriate for a soccer field.
After a month or two I got tired of hearing comments and I had my friend relax my hair. The next day I came to the cafeteria everybody was like, “finally”. My guy friend even told me, ” As a matter of fact you are pretty”. I noticed the difference almost immediately; I was not the different one anymore. I was the cute French girl with the sexy accent. Funny how a simple hairstyle can change everything.
My roommate then started weaving my hair. I would do it every 2 weeks and I would do a color every 2 months or so. My hair started falling off to the point I had a bald spot. I was mortified. I let people affect me and affect who I was. One day at the cafeteria two sisters came up to me and said, “You have inspired us to go natural”. I was ashamed of myself because I had given up who I was to please others while others found the courage to wear their hair natural because of me.
As my hair was falling off I did a short haircut and decided that I was not going to relax my hair anymore in 2006. Unbelievably I still have not done the big chop. My hair grew back and the relaxer fell off in the back of my head but in the very front, the very end of my hair is still relaxed. I know it is crazy. I first wanted to transition until I reached a comfortable length it has been 4 years now. My hair is shoulder length.
What’s your regimen?
T: I try to wash my hair every two weeks, when my son (4 months old) leaves me some time to do it. When I was living in Florida I used to wash my hair with rhassoul clay, every three weeks and then every other week I would co wash with Herbal Essences Hello Hydration, it has a great slip and it conditions my hair very well. I would then detangle my hair under the shower as I find it easier.
Prior to washing my hair, I would do a hot oil hair treatment, using olive oil, and coconut oil and leave it overnight. Then I would braid it and apply a mixture made of shea butter, jojaba oil, argan oil, rosemary oil to the ends of my hair. I wear protective styles like braids, twists, wigs and sometimes weaves too. On the weekend, I wear my hair out. I don’t trim my hair.
Now that I’m back in France instead of using Herbal Essences (because we don’t have it) I use yes to carrots that I buy at Sephora, I also use Timotei nutrition intense that you can find at the drugstores
What would you like to see in France in terms of haircare?
T: I would like to see more salons geared towards natural hair.
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?